With the economy still sagging, many youth sports organizations are feeling the pinch. The result is depleted numbers and a cutback in services for many organizations.
However, despite the downturn, the Burbank Vikings Youth Tackle Football program is going strong. In fact, this season the Vikings will have more than 300 players and cheerleaders taking part in the program and will field 10 football teams — tied for the most ever.
Last season, about 250 girls and boys participated in the Vikings.
"The kids came out in full force as far as signups are concerned, and we're very happy about that," said Craig Hunter, who took over as president of the Vikings. "All of our coaching staffs are in place as well, and we have a lot of coaches who have returned this year.
"Even with the economy like it is, our turnout was is as strong as ever. We filled up our teams pretty quickly, and we even have kids still coming in…It's a fun program."
For 41 years, the Vikings have been the premier tackle football program in the city. Along with serving as a feeder program for the Burbank-area high schools, the organization has also helped develop players who have gone on to enjoy success at the college level, as well as the NFL level.
Formed in 1969, the organization is geared toward children 8-14. It's the only tackle football program in the city and the athletes compete on teams determined by an age/weight formula. All home games are played Saturdays at Burbank High.
The Vikings teams will play about 10 regular-season games in the Pacific Youth Foothill League, which features squads from Ventura County and the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys. The season-opener is on Sept. 11.
During the summer the Vikings have been working out at a new facility, Muir Middle School. The teams had to move from Jordan Middle School, which has been their home for years, because of construction.
Hunter, who also coaches a Junior team, said he has been impressed by the hoards of coaches, parents and other volunteers, who continue to be the lifeblood of the Vikings.
"I can't say enough about [Burbank High Coach] Hector [Valencia] and [Burroughs Coach] Keith [Knoop], who have helped us out tremendously with our teams this year," said Hunter, who also played in the Vikings organization. "They give up their time and they really help us.
"The volunteers make it so successful. We have a great deal of volunteers, and the coaches give up their time as well."
Hunter said the organization has also seen an influx from players from other cities who come to Burbank to play for the Vikings.
"That's nice to see," he said. "I think that says a lot about the organization, that kids want to come play for us."